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Tunic Review

We’ll go to very distant lands

I’ll admit, Tunic had me at the very start. Having played hundreds of hours across countless Legend of Zelda titles, I knew what I was getting myself into when I first caught a glimpse of the cute little fox hero waking up on the shore. Those vibes, the influences, all of it is obvious on the face of it, but after a few hours exploring the overworld and uncovering its secrets it becomes apparent that Tunic is far more than an adventure you’ve taken before.

As mentioned, Tunic opens in a similar fashion to Link’s own stories, awaking to confusion and uncertainty on a colourful beach. Those first few moments are comfortably familiar, picking up whatever you can find and dodging monsters as you find your feet. Eventually you come across your first clue, a simple road sign pointing you to the east, and as you walk on through with only a stick as your weapon, everything feels exactly how you would expect it to. You can roll dodge out of the way, combo attack enemies that throw projectiles and chase after you and eventually come across a trusty sword to deal some proper damage to foes. It feels like a higher quality indie equivalent of Nintendo’s best IPs, a little sprinkle of Fez on the side as the answers you seek won’t be easy to uncover.

This certainly does seem familiar

Across the first few hours, the only hints you’ll get as to what to do or where to go are collectible pages of a manual. Remember those? Tunic certainly does, lovingly crafting itself around the concept of the in-game instruction manual, with each page wonderfully drawn again like the instruction pages Nintendo were known for. The difference, however, is that barely any of it is readable, written instead in an untranslated ancient language that forces you to look a little closer to uncover its true meaning. Without spoiling anything, because it’s more fun to try and figure it out for yourself, every page you do discover along the way slowly pulls back some of the layers of secrecy.

You may, for example, eventually figure out the direction you need to go next, or what item you might need to find in order to progress. I don’t want to explain it too much because the enjoyment of finding a new page and uncovering new clues is one of Tunic’s most enjoyable elements, allowing creative environmental storytelling without the need for over-explanation. It’s just like the NES classics of old, nothing but your wits and the world around you to understand what it’s all about. It’s just a shame that most players won’t experience that feeling of discovery and will instead run to a wiki or game guide as soon as this comes out.

As the story unfolds, the context of the adventure shifts from green hills and forests to darker environments and a growing sense of unease the further you travel. Believe me when I say this doesn’t go in the direction you might think it will, cleverly subverting expectations and throwing a few curve balls along the way. There’s one specific moment that pained me in its reveal, not because I wasn’t expecting it, but because it hit home how troubling this world really is. I absolutely wasn’t ready for it, and I’m curious to hear what others think once they reach it towards the end of the tale.

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Ding, whoosh, next level!

Again, the pages you discover are the key to unveiling the path forward, but some of the joy can be as simple as stumbling across a hidden path. Case in point, on more than one occasion I cursed myself that I didn’t find a path sneakily hidden in plain sight, instead walking around the hard way or having to fight through the same enemies over and over until finding a breakthrough. That led me to walking around behind just about every platform I found just in case I missed something, and even then I inevitably found something much later than I probably should have. Such is Tunic’s design, that even if you miss a key item along the way, it isn’t entirely impossible to carry on without it. Don’t remind me how long I played before I eventually found the shield.

The monsters themselves are a mixed bag of goons that can easily be dispatched with the equipment you uncover including bombs and magical items and the like, but there are also bosses that up the ante and force you into uncovering their pattern and dying a few times along the way. Admittedly I did cheese one boss by staying as close to their weak point and out of their line of fire as I could, but most of the bigger bosses are a real challenge that will take more than one attempt to overcome. Fortunately, there is an accessibility option that will allow players to avoid certain death, making it easier for them to progress and play out the story, but those keen to fight their way through to the end are going to be cursing. A lot. That’s not a slight, but I did feel like the difficulty curve ramped up a little higher towards the end of the story than I would have liked, but the feeling of accomplishment in overcoming the odds is always a welcome one.

Tunic cleverly sells itself on being a colourful, joy-filled adventure that equally holds back its strongest moments and most challenging areas to the back half of the game while being compelling the whole way through. Sure, there will be players who may find the late game a bit too much or might get lost along the way, but if you’re willing to put in the time you’ll find plenty to love and appreciate. That goes double for those who pine for the good old days.

The manual pages are a wonderful inclusion

Final Thoughts

The wait for Tunic was worth it. It’s an adventure that’s far bleaker and challenging than I originally expected but manages to make magic along the way, from the cleverly implemented manual pages to the world design itself. Everything here is masterfully presented and, though the later stages do ramp up the difficulty maybe a tad too much, Tunic is an adventure that’s well worth exploring for its deepest, darkest secrets.

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Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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Tunic Review
A garment worth wearing
Tunic surprises and delights. It doubles down on its environmental storytelling which may put off those looking for a cruisy experience, but true adventurers will be well pleased with the little fox and his quest.
The Good
Finely crafted experience across the board
Instruction manual pages are cleverly implemented
Easy to control and just the right difficulty to master
Environmental storytelling at its finest
Accessibility features are a welcome addition
The Bad
Later levels and boss fights are a real challenge
Some players may find the path forward puzzling
9
Bloody Ripper
  • Andrew Shouldice
  • Finji
  • Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / PC
  • March 17, 2022

Tunic Review
A garment worth wearing
Tunic surprises and delights. It doubles down on its environmental storytelling which may put off those looking for a cruisy experience, but true adventurers will be well pleased with the little fox and his quest.
The Good
Finely crafted experience across the board
Instruction manual pages are cleverly implemented
Easy to control and just the right difficulty to master
Environmental storytelling at its finest
Accessibility features are a welcome addition
The Bad
Later levels and boss fights are a real challenge
Some players may find the path forward puzzling
9
Bloody Ripper
Written By Mark Isaacson

Known on the internet as Kartanym, Mark has been in and out of the gaming scene since what feels like forever, growing up on Nintendo and evolving through the advent of PC first person shooters, PlayStation and virtual reality. He'll try anything at least once and considers himself the one true king of Tetris by politely ignoring the world records.

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